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With support from mentors, youth’s dreams within her grasp

When Iman Williamson was 8 years old, she and her father boarded a plane to Dallas, Texas. Iman slept until her rest was interrupted by yells from passengers on the plane. She woke up and saw her father shaking next to her.

“I was in shock for two days,” said Iman.

Iman’s father suffers from grand mal seizures. He grew accustomed to the seizures by the time she was seven, but doctors did not fully understand his condition then and they do not have a better understanding of it now.

“I want to become a neurosurgeon to figure out what’s wrong with my dad,” said Iman.

Iman is currently a junior at St. Ignatius College Prep and a LINK Unlimited Scholar. Julie and Tom Scott, Iman’s mentors, describe her as incredibly gracious, inspirational and not afraid of a challenge.

Iman is the kind of student LINK works hard to assist, both financially and academically.

In 2016, LINK Unlimited Scholars will celebrate 50 years of service to more than 2,200 scholars and will also expand their mission: to connect economically disadvantaged African-American high school students with mentors, resources and foundational skills required for success as they advance to, through and beyond college.

“You are truly engaged in their life,” said Julie Scott. “It is incredibly inspirational to be a part of this program and easy to get involved as a mentor, donor, or both.”

The Scotts believe in the transformative quality of LINK’s mentorship program. Initially, Iman struggled at St. Ignatius, but with the support of LINK, Iman improved her grades all while participating in several extracurricular activities.

With the additional help of their son, Chris, an Ignatius graduate, the Scotts support and mentor Iman by encouraging her to maintain the determination she has to pursue her dreams.

“Whatever she sets her goals for, she will achieve,” Julie said.

The Scotts indicated that their relationship with Iman’s parents is also critical to their role as mentors. Julie added, “I see it as a collaborative approach.”

“Iman’s mother has done such an incredible job raising Iman, and as mentors, our role is to be a resource for the parents as well,” she said.

The Scotts’ belief in LINK’s mission has driven them to sponsor a total of six mentors from CA Ventures, where Tom is the founder and CEO.

With the combined support of LINK, the Scotts, and her parents, Iman knows that she has the support, tools, and resources to attend a selective college, have a successful career, and pay it forward.

This article is part of a series, produced through an initiative of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

To volunteer or refer a student to LINK, visit www.linkunlimited.org or www.ilmentoring.org.

Author Taylor Shaw is a graduate student at Northwestern University and a LINK Alumna.